Updated 10 years ago

Visitors from the UK to the Philippines can officially use their UK driving licence for up to 90 days (although, if they are renting, a 1 year international driving licence is also recommended), however, because I am a permanent resident of the Philippines now it seemed sensible to obtain a local driving licence.

So I went with my wife to the local Land Trasportation Office (LTO). There are a number of these offices around the country so you should find whichever is the most convenient for you. I completed a short application form, selecting the box for transferring to what they call a non-professional driving licence, and stating my home address in the Philippines. I believe the idea of the non-professional classification is to distinguish me from someone who drives for a living like a coach driver.

The LTO was, as always, very crowded as it handles so many different things including vehicle registration and licence renewal. Probably because I was a foreigner, one of the counter staff caught our eye and beckoned us over, asking to see the licence application form and the different supporting documents. In my case this was my UK paper licence and accompanying photo ID card plus a copy of my passport and birth certificate. My ACR-I (Alien Certificate of Registration) smartcard had not yet been issued by the Bureau of Immigration but the other documents were apparently sufficient anyway. Then to our surprise he asked us to come through a side door into the office to complete other steps in the process.

There we sat by his desk while he again reviewed the different documents and started entering the information to their computer system which he described as being quite slow. To test my familiarity with local driving laws I was asked to complete a multiple choice question test. Some people have told me they are given the answers on a laminated card and simply copy them. This completed we paid over the required fee. I think the offical charge was around 650 pesos, but some people apparently pay a little extra when LTO staff are particularly helpful. We rejoined the majority seated on a long bench outside until I was called over for a drug test in a small building on the opposite side of the road. This involved providing a urine sample and having my photograph taken with a small web cam at the same time (for which there was again a small fee (I think it was about 200 pesos this time).

We then returned again across the road and sat for about half and hour until I was called to a window to have another photo taken, and then eventually to the original window again to collect the driving licence. This turned out to be a six month temporary paper driving licence (bearing a faint photograph of me) which I am told will be replaced by a plastic card when I renew. If, like my wife, you have married (and are no longer using your maiden name) since obtaining your UK licence or are applying for a "student" (learner) licence, you will need to bring along your marriage certificate as proof of name change. Being a foreigner at the LTO is probably to your advantage although, if your grasp of Filipino is limited, I would strongly recommend you have the support of a native speaker.

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